TOKYO, Japan, Oct 6 – An experimental New Zealand side recovered from a sticky start and two yellow cards to hammer Namibia 71-9 and move one step closer to finishing top of their pool at the Rugby World Cup on Sunday.
Namibia battled to within a point at 10-9 after half an hour before the two-time defending champions accelerated away to eclipse their 58-14 victory over the Welwitschias at the 2015 World Cup.
“First half was pretty disappointing. We didn’t turn up with the right attitude and Namibia made us pay for that,” said coach Steve Hansen.
“We had a poor attitude. They had more intent than us and played better than us in the first half. We came out in the second half and sorted that out at half-time and came out and played well,” added Hansen.
The win put the All Blacks top of Pool B after three games, with one more to come against Italy next Saturday as the quarter-finals beckon. Second-placed South Africa round off their pool matches against Canada on Tuesday.
Namibia are the World Cup’s undisputed whipping boys, after never winning a game in the competition and suffering embarrassing defeats like 142-0 against Australia in 2003.
The last time they beat a Tier One nation was Ireland in 1991, but they turned up to play at a cool, windswept Tokyo Stadium and were first on the board through a Damian Stevens penalty after two minutes.
New Zealand’s Jordie Barrett, in his first start at fly-half, put in Sevu Reece with an assured cross-field kick just three minutes later, but then missed the conversion.
Anton Lienert-Brown stormed through a gap and fended off two defenders for New Zealand’s second try on 20 minutes, but Barrett scuffed his conversion once again.
The All Blacks were finding it hard going against the physical Namibians, who twice worked their way up field and won a pair of penalties which Stevens knocked over to take them to only 10-9 down after half an hour.
All Blacks prop Nepo Laulala was sent to the sin-bin for a high tackle on Stevens, and Brodie Retallick’s comeback after a dislocated shoulder lasted just 30 minutes as there were uncomfortable moments for the world champions.
But Angus Ta’avao, minutes after coming on for Sam Cane, dived over for their third try and fullback Ben Smith added a bonus point fourth after the half-time gong to make it 24-9 at the break.
– Scoreboard ‘not very pretty’ –
Joe Moody barrelled over just a minute after the restart before Barrett created a wonderful try, storming through a gap, exchanging passes with Jack Goodhue and putting Lienert-Brown over in the corner.
Reece grabbed his second try with a trademark injection of pace down the right flank, and captain Sam Whitelock added another as the score ballooned to 52-9 after 56 minutes.
Lienert-Brown’s back-of-the-hand offload set up Smith’s second try before Ofa Tuungafasi became New Zealand’s second player in the sin-bin, again for a high tackle.
Barrett rediscovered his kicking boots in the second half, nailing eight conversions and capping a fine all-round performance with a late try as he finished with a personal haul of 21 points.
TJ Perenara was awarded the All Blacks’ 11th and final try after a lengthy review, just before the gong.
The All Blacks extend their record World Cup winning streak to 17 matches dating back to the 2007 quarter-finals — while Namibia go to 22 straight defeats, the longest losing run in the tournament’s history.
Namibia coach Phil Davies said he was proud of his team which has “come a long way.”
“The scoreboard is not very pretty at the end but the effort and the commitment, I’m so proud of the players with how we tried to play,” said Davies.